The French bistro has had somewhat of a comeback of late — but while restaurants like Hubert have focused on making French food cool again, Bistrot Gavroche isn't preoccupied with doing the same. It's gone for a concept that is unashamedly trying to recreate the old-school French bistro — and, for the most part, they've succeeded.
There's something about BG (which is located above Spice Alley, of all places) that feels like you've wandered into a bistro in a French provincial city, say Lyon, that your 2012 copy of Lonely Planet said would be 'an authentic French dining experience'. It's one of those ones where every surface is chocolate hardwood, the menus are set in glass A3 frames, the bread basket is replenished unprompted, and the French songs ('Champs Elysées' included) are played over the speakers a little too loud. It's borderline kitsch and it's delightful.
Similarly French is the cone of still-warm gougères (cheesy choux pastry balls) that appear on the table as you peruse the wine list and the bread basket that is replenished with neat slices of crusty baguette (from Brickfields just up the road) as soon as you polish them off. The rest of the menu follows suit with an offering that covers off pretty much all the French staples. The escargot — which comes lathered with an epic amount of parsley butter — and the pastry-encased baked pork terrine is a good place to start, the latter of which is a recipe from chef Frederic Colin's Grandpa Henri.
While the menu is not one that changes week-to-week — and coming back here to eat the same comforting food is half the appeal — additional dishes are added according to the seasons. For spring, a plate of incredible new-season asparagus is heroed with just herbs and a poached egg on top, and an immaculate raspberry and pistachio cream tart ($15) has been added to the dessert list.
With dark timber, red wine (preferably a Shiraz from the Rhône Valley) and quiet conversation between mainly two-person parties scattered around the room, it feels almost remiss not to order a steak. The entrecôte — served with frites and Béarnaise for $45 — is a mammoth of a steak, enough to serve two or three people. Ours comes a little too rare, and is a little too difficult to slice a knife through the bloodiest bits. It certainly doesn't have the melty qualities of the hanger steak, which, smaller, instead comes finely sliced on a bed of red wine shallots and Lyonnaise potatoes ($37). This one is an exquisite and memorable cut of steak — order it instead.
Dessert too toes the traditional line and incorporates all the classic French sweets you've probably heard about but never actually eaten; crêpe Suzette comes swimming in a visually amazing orange sauce, profiteroles are filled with ice cream and hot chocolate sauce and that worm-like pureed chestnut cake — the Mont Blanc — makes an appearance too ($15 each). None are particularly mind-blowing, but are comforting, familiar and feel legitimately French — much like Bistrot Gavroche itself.